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Recycling is not new

“Use it up, wear it out, make do or do without,” was a saying during the Great Depression and during wartime. My dad has told me how they used to switch tires around on vehicles to make a car road worthy, using the four best tires so the boys could go to town on Saturday night. An emergency situation these days is when the battery runs low on the Smart phone. Then there are the people who think they invented recycling. Imagine a scenario like this.

When a woman of a certain age was checking out at the store, the young cashier suggested to the lady that she should bring her own grocery bags, because plastic bags are not good for the environment. The woman apologized to the young girl and explained, “We didn’t have this ‘green thing’ back in my earlier days.”

The lady then said, back then, we returned milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store and got a reward of one to three cents on each bottle. We usually had enough to spend so that we could buy a few pieces of candy. The store sent the bottles back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so the bottles could be reused over and over. Now most things are bottled in plastic and there isn’t usually a return fee. The bottles may be recycled though not for bottling, but for shoes, lawn chairs and other items.



Grocery stores bagged our groceries in brown paper bags that we reused for numerous things. Most memorable besides household garbage bags was the use of brown paper bags as book covers for our school books to keep the books nice for the students to use the following year. We walked to the grocery store and didn’t climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks. Back then we used cloth diapers and washed them to use again because we didn’t have the throw away kind. Wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days.


If we were lucky, we had one TV in the house. The TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief, not a screen the size of the state of Montana. When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didn’t need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity.



Back then, kids walked or rode their bikes to school or a friend’s house instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service in the family’s $50,000 SUV or van, which cost what a whole house did before the “green thing.” We didn’t need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 23,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest burger joint.

It’s always amusing when people lecture about recycling. Older generations have darned socks, patched clothes, and used pretty flour sacks to make homemade clothing, even though they didn’t have the “green thing” back then, they did recycle and make do.

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